• Published a book you want to tell us about? Uploaded a YouTube video you want to share?

    Normally you'll need 100 posts to self-promote, but with an upgraded membership you can do so with your first post.

    Find out more here: Become a Supporting Member

What is this strange atmospheric effect?

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Nov 23, 2002
Ahhh, the joy of a new day as the rays of the sun break out over the horizon as the sun rises:


Except that it isn't morning and the sun is behind me to the south. This picture was taken looking north.

The picture shows light converging on the horizon - at the opposite point of the sky to the sun. So how on earth does this happen??

This is an effect I've seen a few times. It's precisely like looking at sun beams breaking through the clouds - except for the disconcerting point that the sun beams are not diverging away from the sun, but converging on a point opposite from it.

It's winter at the moment and the sun appears low in the sky. I'm in the highlands of Scotland so it's a reasonably high latitude.

The only speculation I can come up with is that the atmosphere is acting like a convex lens, allowing light to appear to converge away from the sun as observed. Perhaps the particular conditions around this time of year make this effect particularly marked.

However, except for first observing it about 5 weeks ago, I have never noticed this effect before. Now it's particularly noticeable on days with any break in the clouds.

The question is, what is actually happening here?


Ray McCarthy

Sentient Marmite: The Truth may make you fret.
Jul 16, 2014
The Mid West (of Ireland)
There is a name for it. But sadly I forget.
There are few different things that can cause it. One is light reflecting off water (lake, sea), mist or Rain into mist or clouds or rain.

Dennis E. Taylor

Formerly Bizmuth. Destroying Worlds Since {mumble}
Nov 28, 2014
Vancouver, BC
Leo Frankowski wrote about and used a similar effect in The Crosstime Engineer. I'm not positive this is the same thing, but it has similar characteristics.
The convergence is just perspective. The rays are actually parallel. The effect would be caused by a partial obscuring of the sun, possibly by something on the horizon. If you are in the middle of the shadow, you'd see the sunbeams all around you. They'd seem to converge on the horizon.
Based on the partial illumination of clouds in your pix, I'd bet there are a lot of scattered clouds behind you, casting shadows.


Well-Known Member
Aug 14, 2012
Nah...what look like clouds are actually Starfleet ships (if you squint a bit, and use your imagination)